orangutan picking nose

It’s a dirty little habit that many engage in and few would admit to. As much as 91 percent part of the population picks their nose from time to time. Many people do it to remove dry nasal mucus, namely boogies, which can build up and irritate the nose. If you have allergies that clog your nasal passages, it’s even more tempting to clear them. And in some cases, picking your nose can become a compulsive habit, like nail biting.

Nose pickers

Researchers have found that nose picking is much more common in the animal kingdom than we previously thought. An October 2022 study published in the journal Zoology found that nose picking, known scientifically as rhinothylexis, has been documented in at least 12 primate species.

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Yes-yes, a lemur with large eyes and strikingly long fingers, lowers its pickers into the nasal cavity all the way to the pharynx. Gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans are also guilty of picking their noses. It’s not clear why so many primates choose, especially given the stark fact that, as documented in the study, many ate their findings. Some researchers think it may have something to do with the taste or that it somehow boosts immunity.

Read more: How similar are humans and apes?

Is it bad to pick your nose?

As for humans, digging can be a compulsive habit called rhinothylexomania, a form of repetitive behavior that can cause damage to the nasal passages. For most people, however, picking their nose is just a bad habit done out of boredom or nervousness when we think no one is watching.

Still, it may be a habit worth breaking because of the risk of spreading pathogens. If you take a quick bite of your dried nasal mucus and then put that same hand on a doorknob or, even worse, a potato chip, you’re spreading disease without even realizing it. An October 2018 study published in European Respiratory Journal found that a common and deadly pneumonia-causing bacteria called pneumococcus is found in the nasal passages and can spread through the hands.

“[The] transmission of S. pneumoniae occurs primarily through indirect contact,” the study authors wrote. This “indirect contact” can happen when you pick and then shake hands or eat without washing your hands. others research showed that nose pickers were more than 18 percent more likely to wear Staphylococcus aureusthe bacteria that causes staph infections in their noses.

Why do people pick their nose?

For most accidental pickers, dry nasal passages are to blame, and a saline solution to keep the nose moist can help. It may also be worth treating allergies that clog your nasal passages and cause unnecessary discomfort. In others, it may be a stress-relieving activity best treated by keeping your hands busy with something else like a stress ball or gadget. If your kids are pickers, it’s worth paying attention to the behavior (without embarrassing them) and explaining why nose picking is a no-no. When you catch your young picker, take him to the bathroom to wash his hands while you explain.

Read more: Everything you need to know about allergies

In most cases, blowing your nose is an unpleasant habit that is unlikely to cause health problems. Still, in the era of COVID-19 and a particularly severe flu season, it seems a little more dire than before. But most importantly, many primates are foragers, although monkeys and apes openly dig, while humans are more likely to wait for a secret session.

(Credit: Natalia_R/Shutterstock)

Read more: 4 Crazy Facts You Should Know About Your Nose

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